Wayde van Niekerk’s stunning Olympic victory will see him take his place in the history books, but he is now becoming more than just a prolific athlete. Van Niekerk broke a few records early Monday morning in a brilliant display of strength and determination, going on to win gold in the 400 sprint. Exceeding even his own expectations, Van Niekerk broke a 17 year old world record held by US great Michael Johnson and became the first person to win a race in the 8th lane.
His success has catapulted him into instant global fame but more importantly, it is transforming him into a role-model for young South Africans. His success is also managing to strengthen patriotism and give hope to young South Africans that are in search of success. Van Niekerk, who grew up in Cape Town and later moved to the Free State, is already positively influencing citizens.
Cape Town is still abuzz with excitement following the news and it seems his triumph has created a sense of pride in SA’s Olympics team.
19-year-old Shakira Phillips from Kensington says that the Olympian’s success stands as an eye-opener for youngsters who are willing to enter the Olympics and achieve greatness.
“Many of our youngsters are influenced by gangsterism and he gives us the belief that we are much more than our surroundings, we can achieve more if we are willing,” says Phillips.
Phillips is one of the many youngsters in the country that are already changing their perspective due to the image of van Niekerk. She also stands as an example that change can happen when there is a role-model that provides hope.
Another resident, Mr Epstein, who is 69-years-old, believes that van Niekerk’s success can possibility lead to more money being invested in training young athletes. He also believes that the event shows that there is still hope for people to have pride in South Africa.
Epstein compared Van Niekerk’s victory to that of the Springboks win in the Rugby World Cup 1995. He believes sport is the only way of bringing people together.
Epstein’s views on Niekerk’s achievements show that not only is the youth positively affected by it, but also the elderly. It is also an indicator that the seasoned souls of the nation still believe in change that may help a younger generation to achieve what they desire.
“That’s a big achievement, especially for a guy coming from Kraaifontein,” says another citizen named Sieraaj Burton.
Burton states that van Niekerk’s humbleness is something he believes can influence people. He also goes on to say that the athlete is setting the standard for younger people who originate from the same place as him. VOC (Imran Salie)